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Bell Book & Candle


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I fully expected to dislike this brand-new place across 10th St. from Highlands. I think its principal gimmick -- a farm! on the roof! -- is stupid. I refuse to believe that produce grown on the roof of a Manhattan apartment building is better than that grown on a reputable farm in New Jersey.

 

But I'm unexpectedly won over.

 

The below-street-level space (you descend a steep stoop to get to the door) is very pleasant. There are two rooms with tables, and a section with very big booths in front of an open kitchen. Seating is comfortable. The walls are dark and cozy. There's sculpture strewn about the dining rooms.

 

But the most pleasant surprise is the food. I didn't expect it to be anywhere near as good as it was. It's American (with various accents), but not quite the simple American Bistro we've become accustomed to. It's more eclectic than that, and the dishes are maybe a tiny bit more complicated. Mainly, though, the cooking is simply very good.

 

Favorite dishes? I liked a dish of baked shrimp, flavored similarly to the way my mother's baked clams used to be (if you didn't grow up eating them, this dish might not make much sense to you). Lamb chops, heavily herbed (from the roof!), were delicious. The weekly Thursday special of suckling pig -- a nice brick of pulled meat and skin, with airy cracklings served on the side -- was pretty much perfect. An eggless frisee salad (from the roof!) with strips of unsmoked pork belly instead of bacon shows exactly what this restaurant is: a boring, oridinary, even cliched dish -- raised by the perfectly cooked pork belly, some of the best I've had in ages. We're all sick of pork belly -- but what a treat to have it cooked so well.

 

So this is not high-level cuisine. But what it is, is done about as well as could be.

 

The menu evidences some impatience with current dining trends. On the right, a list of traditional appetizers (if anything, bigger than traditional) and then main dishes. On the left, for those with gustatory ADD, various kinds of plates to share. (In the middle, if memory serves, salads -- from the roof!)

 

I'm trying to convey modest praise here. There's nothing particularly special about this food. It's just toward the top of its modest class. But that's achievement enough. I enjoyed it.

 

COMP DISCLOSURE: One person out of the three at our table knew a friend of the chef, and two out of the three (not me) were known to be in a position to help the restaurant. We got several dishes sent to us.

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From Eater -

Now taking the careful sourcing, farm to table trend to its extreme is Bell Book & Candle, a restaurant that is named after a Jimmy Stewart film, designed after "James Dean’s blend of natural elegance and cool attitude," and has a giant farm on its rooftop.

Seems like they got their Jimmys confused. Then again, naming the restaurant "Rebel Without A Cause" probably wouldn't have worked.

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It will be interesting to see how they have pulled off the fact that the place is in a basement, no, actually it is a basement(I am very familiar with that block and know exactly where it is, tried to peek in the other night but windows were still papered).

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It's fine. Going downstairs makes it seem cozy. The front even has windows.

 

A problem will be that it makes it hard to find. You certainly don't expect to look down as you search for it on the street.

 

It's funny it's in a basement, given their emphasis on the activities on the roof. Makes the farm one story less local.

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From Eater -
Now taking the careful sourcing, farm to table trend to its extreme is Bell Book & Candle, a restaurant that is named after a Jimmy Stewart film, designed after "James Dean’s blend of natural elegance and cool attitude," and has a giant farm on its rooftop.

Seems like they got their Jimmys confused.

:lol: :lol:

 

Yeah, naming your place after a method of excommunication is pretty strange too.

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